Friday, December 13, 2013

Always Like Toles Cartoons

The Ground In Merced County Is Sinking As Fast As One Foot A Year

Ground-water pumping:
Parts of Merced south of El Nido dropped more than 21 inches in just two years. That area – often called Red Top by locals – appears to be continuing to sink at a rate of nearly 1 foot per year.

Researchers warn that the area that’s sinking is gradually spreading across 1,200 square miles – from the cities of Merced on the north, to Los Banos on the west, Madera on the east and Mendota on the south.

...USGS officials said they fear sinking ground levels will wreak havoc on economically vital man-made structures like the Delta-Mendota Canal, the California Aqueduct and irrigation canals that serve Merced and Madera counties.

...“A foot a year of subsidence (near El Nido) is a very rapid rate,” said Michelle Sneed, the USGS hydrologist who was the lead author of the new report. “I think that’s alarming.”

Sneed said that’s “among the fastest subsidence rates ever measured in the San Joaquin Valley.”

Appalled By The Pointless Slaughter Of The Monarchs

All in the Name of Progress:
Last year’s low of 60 million now seems great compared with the fewer than three million that have shown up so far this year. Some experts fear that the spectacular migration could be near collapse.

...“There’s no question that the loss of habitat is huge,” said Douglas Tallamy, a professor of entomology at the University of Delaware, who has long warned of the perils of disappearing insects. “We notice the monarch and bees because they are iconic insects,” he said. “But what do you think is happening to everything else?”

A big part of it is the way the United States farms. As the price of corn has soared in recent years, driven by federal subsidies for biofuels, farmers have expanded their fields. That has meant plowing every scrap of earth that can grow a corn plant, including millions of acres of land once reserved in a federal program for conservation purposes.

Another major cause is farming with Roundup, a herbicide that kills virtually all plants except crops that are genetically modified to survive it.

As a result, millions of acres of native plants, especially milkweed, an important source of nectar for many species, and vital for monarch butterfly larvae, have been wiped out. One study showed that Iowa has lost almost 60 percent of its milkweed, and another found 90 percent was gone. “The agricultural landscape has been sterilized,” said Dr. Brower.

Wondered About The Trails Hit Piece

Trails is so close to my house. The things the food reviewer highlights as weaknesses strike me as quirky strengths:
With its dated aluminum awnings, the fading and peeling paint, cowboy wallpaper, velvet paintings and those Formica tables, it’s in serious need of an update....

...Trails is not a good restaurant, but neither is it a terrible one. It’s a place stuck in purgatory, anchored unceremoniously in a Sacramento food scene that no longer really exists.

...The menu is dated and lacks a coherent vision....  There are combinations that scream 1980s, like ribs and prawns or shish kebab and ribs or shish kebab and chicken. The salads, all iceberg lettuce and faded-red, flavorless tomatoes, make clear that Trails has yet to sign on with the farm-to-fork movement.

...The disconnect is all too obvious at Trails. The vegetables that came with our steak? Our skewers of desiccated chicken? Our decent roast chicken? There weren’t any. We got a sad baked potato or some competent French fries. When we asked about vegetables, our server plunked down our side salads and said, “You’re looking’ at ’em.”

...The beer list is stuck in 1979.

...Charming as it may be, Trails lost its way by refusing to set foot in the new and much more dynamic Sacramento, where we expect better food and know where to find it. There once was a time, many years ago, where Western-themed restaurants were all the rage in Sacramento, probably because Westerns were all the rage in movies and on TV. Folks even got dressed up in Western garb when they went out to eat here.

That Sacramento, cute as a button, no longer exists.

Annual Sierra Christmas Party

Impressive flock of crows at dusk.

The spread.

Allen from Michigan does the honors.

Almost Forgot To Post Recent 'Good Day, Sacramento' DMTC Videos

Thanks be, Mike Mechanick!

Holiday Theme

Sugar-Free Gummy Bears

Curtis Mayfield ~ Fred Is Dead

Early Seventies vibe.

Joe The Plumber Has A Web Site

Trying to get those elusive customers.

A Good Day At Work

So rare these days! Feeling like Motel the Tailor:
"A perfect fit. Like a glove. This match was made exactly to measure."

Black Rock, Featuring Debra Andrew - Blue Water

Trance favorite.

Night Wear

Last winter, I completely wore out my Dr. Seuss night cap, so I replaced it with another sort of cap, but this winter I can't find it. So, I cobbled together an Arab-looking assembly to replace it. It uses an extra scarf I've never used before, plus a headband. Oddly-enough, my mom assembled this headband, about 1980. She was going for the Jane Fonda/Olivia Newton John Aerobics look, which was trendy then and which she nailed, but that look isn't so trendy these days. At 2:30 a.m., though, trendy takes a back seat to comfort.

Pipers Piping

Sitting at my desk, I heard the wail of bagpipes, so I went outside to see what was up. I don't know who these folks are, but they were wailing away with gusto.

Quibbling With The Exterior Decorator

On Wednesday, after the garbage was picked up, the Garbage Toter soon disappeared from the alley. Where did it go? In addition, another Greens Recycling Toter showed up in its place. It's nice to have an extra one, but I already had a surfeit of Greens Recycling Toters - certainly more than enough for the leaves that fall in the immediate neighborhood.

I remember when the fellow that E. fondly calls 'Psycho One' used to be here. When he was descending into homelessness, Psycho One stole a Toter, because it made a pretty good cart for belongings. Did someone steal mine? But why would they do that? There were still traces of Squashed Pigeon smeared on the inside walls. The Greens Recycling Toters are newer and cleaner.

Today, I found the Garbage Toter. It was hiding in plain sight among the other Greens Recycling Toters. So, I moved it back to where I wanted it, where it had always been, at the end of the line of Toters. Then, within minutes, someone moved it back into its anonymous location and took away one of the Greens Recycling Toters. WTF? Yet, I have no idea who is doing this. It's almost as if I have a fussy exterior decorator who wants to line up the Toters in the alley just so.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Retailers Flailing

Another Christmas season dies aborning:
In an attempt to keep shoppers coming, retailers are extending their Black Friday promotions into December — a tactic rarely employed to this extent. To avoid being caught in January with excess inventory from 2013, many are choosing to sacrifice profit margins by preemptively discounting this month.

Cohen said the type of bargains normally reserved for the week after Christmas are "now available a month in advance."

"This is the drowning man phenomenon — some retailers appear to be flailing around desperately trying to keep their heads above water," he said.

Meeting John Wright In Concord

John Wright, wearing his Fuji-brand bicycle windbreaker.  Along with the mythical Mr. Farouk, John owns the Pro Bike shop in Oklahoma City.  He was in San Francisco for business, and to visit family.  He came out to Concord on BART, and I drove down from Sacramento to meet him.

We had some pastries at Alpine Pastry in Concord.  Later, we ended up at a diner, and shared conversation about old times, and new. 

I remember coming to Concord in 2003, during the Gubernatorial Recall Election, and saw the massive demonstrations of IT workers outraged that their jobs had been outsourced en masse to the Philippines.  Today, the glass towers where those IT workers worked appear mostly empty, and downtown Concord has edged towards ghost-town status.  Thank you, Masters of the Universe.

Nearby was the Command Center.  'For Lease' signs festooned the building.  The Command Center seems to have been abandoned.  Which probably explains a lot.

Passing through Fairfield on the way back to Sacramento on Interstate-80, there was a fire in a neighborhood near the freeway.  Was this?  Yes it was!  The very same neighborhood that saw a massive fire on August 31st! Why is this neighborhood always on fire?  Does Katniss Everdeen, the 'Girl on Fire' live here?

Monday, December 09, 2013

It's Cold Outside

(Phone rings at 7:30 a.m. Outside temperature at Sacramento Executive Airport National Weather Service station: 25 degrees F.)

M.: Mmmphello?

E.: MMMMMAAAAARRRRCCCCC! It's Erlynda! The pipes here are FROZEN! It's so cold! I flush the toilet, and there's no water coming through the pipes! Chris says use the Hair Dryer to warm up the pipes!

M.: It's colder where you are than it is here. I'm not too worried. And besides, that's a trailer you guys are in, which is vulnerable to frozen pipes, and....

E.: MMMMAAAARRRRCCCC! Chris says it's a mobile home, and not a trailer. Anyway, be careful with the Hair Dryer and don't electrocute yourself! Bye!

Amusing Video Of Tyehimba Serving Food On A Train

Tyehimba has training as a clown, and it shows in Richard's amusing video from Old Sacramento.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Archaeology By Internet - Socorro Example

I recently contacted an archaeologist named Michael Bletzer. Back when we were young college students at New Mexico Tech in Socorro, about 1975, we visited two places of archaeological interest. The first site was a short distance from Socorro; the second site was considerably farther away. (Site names have been redacted to preserve antiquities.)

We collected pottery shards and related debris. I always wanted to find someone who might have a better understanding of what we were looking at. I wondered whether the first site was a remnant of the Piro Indians, who were once common in the Socorro area.

There was an interesting recent article in New Mexico Historical Review ("The First Province of that Kingdom": Notes on the Colonial History of the Piro Area) written by Michael Bletzer, whose specialty is the archaeology of Piro Indian ruins in Socorro. It sounded like he might be the guy to contact.

Bletzer looked at my photos of pottery shards and thinks they are older than what he was looking at near Socorro: pre-1300, for sure.

I thought it was an interesting exchange (enclosed below):
Dear Mr. Bletzer:

I read with interest your article on the Piros in NMHR, and was curious whether you had any information regarding (the ruins at site 1). Do they date from the chaotic times of the 1690's, or are they older?
He replied:

The main structures at (Socorro) appear to be much older than the Revolt Period. Some of the ceramics indicate at least a 14th-century occupation. Doubtless, however, the area was used until the abandonment, in 1680, of Pilabo/Socorro Pueblo.

There are also scattered about the foothills small sites with slag, 17th-century ceramics, and Spanish artifacts, which indicate prospecting by the Spanish. Nothing big came of this; there was never any large-scale mining during the colonial period.

I replied:

Thanks, Michael!

It's fun revisiting memories of when I was a freshman at NM Tech (1974-1976).

I'm attaching a few photos of some of the stuff we gathered (at Site 1).

Ceramic fragments, plus projectile point.

Closeup of projectile point.

Take a look at the ceramic fragments picture and see if you can make anything from them.

The ruins of these structures seemed strange to me. They didn't look like Puebloan structures, and so I thought maybe they were seasonal shelters of some sort, whether by Piro Indians, or others.

We also visited another interesting site (Site 2). An arroyo was actively eating through what had been a buried pit. It was a perfect, pre-cut profile, custom-made for the archaeologist in mind, but unfortunately it was in the process of being destroyed by the arroyo. Who knows how much of it lingers? There was also ruins of a European house on a nearby hilltop there.

Carbonized wood (around 1982, I gave these to the Tree Ring Lab at U of A in Tucson to see if they could date them, but they returned them, I think without looking at them).

Collected debris, including glass bottle debris.

He replied:
Hello Marc,

It seems I misread your original question - somehow I was thinking of (another location) - an interesting site in itself but not the one you are referring to.

Now, the site you actually describe I haven't seen. I'll look at the ceramics and let you know what I think (whatever that may be worth, haha...)

And indeed, he rendered a verdict:

As far as I can tell from the photos, your ceramics are old, pre-1300s definitely. Older by at least 200 years than most of the glazewares I'm dealing with on the sites I'm working on around Socorro.

(Regarding site 2) I did a site inventory with some colleagues, but other than limited survey no work has ever been done on any of those sites. They are out in the middle of nowhere, very cool locations! No wonder people are seeing aliens down there....

That's great!

The trouble with archaeology, of course, is that there is so much work to do, and the ruins are so vulnerable to damage.

Meanwhile, to learn more about the later history of the area, I'm starting to read more about the consolidation of Comanche power in the mid-18th Century, and their explusion of the Apache, which hit Spanish colonial New Mexico so very, very hard.

10th Annual Nuts And Berries Fundraiser For The Wildlife Care Association (WCA)

Special guests included the Leucistic (albino) Crow.

Screech Owl.

Barn Owl.

Lots of silent auction bidding for gift baskets.  My damage: $107 + $20 for bicycle raffle (which I missed winning by one) + $10 entrance fee = $137.00.


Great Horned Owl.

Yellow-Billed Magpie

Burrowing Owl.

"Schoolhouse Rock, Live!" - DMTC YPT

"A Christmas Carol" - Stockton Civic Theatre

On Saturday evening, we went down to Stockton to see the musical version of "A Christmas Carol" (the same version we performed last year at DMTC), and to cheer on Scott Minor, who was playing Scrooge.

Scott played the lead role well, with lots of character, as did Vince Peralta (Ghost of Christmas Past), and Jesse Beltran (Ghost of Christmas Past).

Liked the costumes.

Puzzled by the multiplatform set, which didn't remind me of Victorian London, but instead reminded me of the Mayan-inspired, neo-Egyptian-looking set of The Time Machine (1960). Then again, Scrooge is a kind of time traveler, so maybe it's apropos.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Awesome show, as expected for the second part of the trilogy. Maybe not quite as good as the first part - it starts in the middle and ends in the middle - but still, awesome. It reminds me in a way of "Dune", but aimed at teenage girls rather than boys.

Jennifer Lawrence is the quintessential Katniss Everdeen: the role of a lifetime!